Not right to oppose swear word reprimand, says Brexit Party AM

Leanne Wood

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Leanne Wood said she was challenging a misogynistic bully with the tweet

It would be wrong for Plaid Cymru to oppose a decision to reprimand a former party leader for swearing at a blogger, a member of the body that made the recommendation has said.

Plaid will decide on Tuesday whether it will vote against a proposal by the standards committee to censure Leanne Wood.

David Rowlands, a Brexit Party AM, argued AMs should not agree sanctions only when it suits them.

Plaid said it backs Leanne Wood.

A party group spokeswoman reiterated that the party would “oppose the censure”.

Ms Wood said she was challenging a “misogynistic bully” when she called Royston Jones an “arsehole” in a tweet. Mr Jones denied the accusation.

AMs will vote on Wednesday whether to endorse the finding of the cross-party standards committee that she is given an official reprimand.

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David Rowlands said condemnation of the standards commissioner was “quite appalling”

The decision, made after standards commissioner Sir Roderick Evans found Ms Wood broke the code of conduct over the tweet, sparked a row last week.

Plaid Cymru said it would oppose the ruling, with party leader Adam Price claiming it missed “context, perspective” and “proportionality”.

It is not clear if Plaid will vote against the motion or abstain. A decision will be made at a group meeting on Tuesday.

Labour AMs had also been critical of the decision. One Labour AM said there was sympathy for Ms Wood, but expected the standards process be respected. BBC Wales has been told the party will not be whipped.

The censure was unanimously agreed by the four member committee chaired by Labour AM Jayne Bryant and including Plaid’s Helen Mary Jones, the Conservatives’ Andrew RT Davies and Mr Rowlands.

It has to be passed by the assembly.

Sir Roderick Evans was accused of “double standards” by Labour AM Lynne Neagle, contrasting it to a decision not to initially investigate Gareth Bennett over a video about Joyce Watson.

But Mr Rowlands told BBC Wales condemnation of the commissioner himself was “quite appalling because obviously the commissioner did not make the decision on the sanction – that was done by the committee”.

He said it would not be “right” for Plaid to vote against the censure, asking whether the party was questioning the rule book for AMs.

“If we are going to say that we will only agree with sanctions if they suit us, then where are we going with that in general terms?

“Everybody could say ‘I’m not accepting the sanctions’.”

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Sir Roderick Evans became Standards Commissioner in 2017

A separate source close to the process said it was “a bit rich for Plaid” to oppose the censure when their member on standards endorsed it.

“I would suggest anyone else in a consumer-facing business would be up before a disciplinary panel” if they used the same swear word, the source said.

If Ms Wood is censured, no further action will be taken. The committee did not seek the more severe sanction of excluding the AM for a period of time, as had been applied to Michelle Brown, Gareth Bennett and Rhiannon Passmore in other cases.

Under the assembly’s standards process, Sir Roderick Evans first decides whether to investigate a complaint. He may then produce a report if he believes an AM has broken the code of conduct.

It is then for the standards committee to decide on a sanction. It would be unusual for the committee to disagree with the commissioner – in this case the committee did, agreeing Ms Wood broke the rules.

In their report, the AMs said they “strongly believe that any form of online abuse should be tackled” but added: “We believe that the appropriate response to dealing with this is not using language which some people may find offensive.”

A Labour AM told BBC Wales: “There is a great deal of sympathy for Leanne in the context of the way politicians are treated on social media, and how difficult it can be not to rise to the bait, with the absence of a code of conduct covering social media too.

“The general feeling is that AMs must respect the standards system we have in place and the unanimous recommendations of the cross party standards committee.”

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